Hypochondriac? Me? With pears poached in mulled wine.

We have a challenging relationship with illness in my family. I’m not talking serious illness (at least at this point), but just your average, common-or-garden varietal colds, sore stomachs and aches and pains.

In my family, there’s a divide between my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family. My mother comes from a family of Scotsmen, which I guess sums up all there is to say about stoicism. Or damned bloody mindedness, for a more direct turn of phrase.

The general approach to sickness among our clan is to suck it up and get on with it. My mother’s approach to handling me as a unwell child was “go to school and see how you feel”. Code for “unless you have the plague you’re not staying home”.

When it came to my grandmother, her approach was benign, but as it turns out, deadly. She avoided going to the doctor at all costs, lest she be found malingering. She’d talk to the doctor about his personal problems, rather than her own (I should mention my grandmother was Scottish, white haired and under 5 feet tall. Like a miniature Mrs Doubtfire). Ultimately, a sore above her top lip, which she’d avoided having treatment for, developed into a malignancy which had to be cut out, leaving a nasty scar. She died far too young at 70, after complaining for months about breathlessness caused by issues with her legs. Her actual issue was that she was diabetic, and as a result had heart problems, which could have been easily treated. We didn’t find that out until after she died from a heart attack.

My father’s side of the family takes a completely opposing approach. My paternal grandmother lived to be 98 (albeit with dementia), unbelievably sound of body, if not mind. She walked, played croquet, worked in her garden, and took herself off to bed at the slightest hint of a tickle at the back of her throat. We were warned not to kiss her, unless we fell to “the Bot”. Not really sure what that’s short for.

My father has followed in her footsteps. Even a hint of illness warrants a doctors visit. Much to my mother’s chagrin. She sighs, rolls her eyes, and talks about his hypochondria. Dad is healthy as an ox in his mid-70’s, goes to the gym three times a week, plays sport, goes fishing, is generally active, and rarely unwell. Mum, has angina, polymyalgia (a kind of rheumatism), a high risk of bowl cancer and takes a raft of medication, which has subsequently given her kidney issues.

I should mention my father’s family were based in New Zealand in WW2, with all the opportunity that afforded. My mother’s family were in Scotland, and were far more exposed to nutritional and environmental challenges that shaped the way they thought and behaved.

The point of all this is how it affects the way I think. I am rubbish at being sympathetic when my kids are unwell. I have, embarrassingly, adopted my mother’s suck-it-and-see approach to sending kids to school when they’re feeling sick.

I feel terrible every time I do it and get the call later in the day from the school nurse.

I always feel like a fraud when I go to the doctor. I’ve recently had an allergic reaction which has resulted in a rash over most of my body. I tried, for 10 days, to treat it with antihistamines, until I finally caved and went to A&E. If I’d been more prepared to face a doctor before it became unbearable, I might have saved myself $100 by making an appointment with my GP. That allergy has become chronic urticaria, which if not resolved in the next week, will lead to visits to an immunologist.

So I’m not sure that taking the stoic approach is best. While I worry my kids are missing school, the alternative is to send them to school and have their potential virus spread like wildfire. An illness that could be easily resolved by getting onto it early can end up being something far more serious without treatment (as demonstrated by my late maternal grandmother).

Time to suppress the little voice in my head that says I’m a fraud, or that my children are pretending, or that my husband is a hypochondriac and take the time to look after ourselves. Better to live a long healthy life, with the odd day in bed recovering, than a short life, with head held high because I could “suck it up”.

PEARS POACHED IN MULLED WINE

Red wine, in small doses, is shown to have great health benefits. Good for body and soul. Here’s a recipe that makes great use of seasonal pears, which I’ve prepared for my friend Charlotte. Her blog A Beautiful Mind, to raise awareness of possible ways to prevent Alzhiemer’s Disease. Her blog this week is all about red wine, so make sure you go and have a read.

2 cups red wine 2017-05-27 08.37.26
1/3 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
Peel of one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 pears, peeled (I used buerre bosc)
200g mascapone
100g greek yoghurt

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat red wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, orange peel and vanilla essence. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar as dissolved.
  2. Add pears, bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 1 hour, turning carefully to keep the pears evenly coloured.
  3. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cooled.
  4. Check red wine syrup for thickness. If sauce hasn’t reduced during cooking process, strain our spices and return sauce to the boil. Cook until desired thickness is reached.
  5. Mix mascapone and yoghurt together until evenly combined.
  6. Serve pears drizzled with red wine syrup, with mascapone alongside.
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L’Authentique Time: Toulouse Sausages with Red Wine and Cabbage Lentils

This is one of my favourite ways to cook sausages. Well technically, the sausages are cooked the same way they often are – fried in a pan until golden and juicy. And since I’m using L’Authentique sausages, the quality cuts of meat they use mean their sausages should never be overcooked! I’m on pain of death if I dare to leave them a minute longer than I should.

It’s the lentil braise that makes this dish. Lardons of bacon, red wine, garlic, herbs, all cooked to perfection. And the addition of half a head of cabbage means you don’t need to fuss with extra vegetables. It’s all there on the plate.

If you really felt that you need more carbs, you could make like the French and serve this with a crusty baguette to soak up the juices.

L’AUTHENTIQUE TOULOUSE SAUSAGES WITH RED WINE AND CABBAGE LENTILS
Serves: 4-6

2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for cooking sausages2017-05-24 11.35.34 v1
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped into lardons
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf, a sprig of thyme and parsley, tied together with string (bouquet garni)
1 1/2 cups puy lentils
2 cups red wine
1/2 green cabbage, finely sliced
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
10g butter
Extra parsley to garnish
8 L’Authentique Toulouse Sausages

  1. In a heavy based casserole dish, heat the olive oil. Add bacon and fry until crisp
  2. Reduce heat, add onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook slowly, stirring, until vegetables are soft.
  3. Add puy lentils, bouquet garni and red wine. Bring to the boil so alcohol evaporates, then add cabbage and stir to combine.
  4. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes adding extra water if the lentils start to dry out (there should be sauce).
  5. While lentils are cooking, cook the sausages as per the instructions on the pack. Remove from pan and keep warm.
  6. Check that the lentils are cooked (they should be al dente). Add vinegar and butter, stir to combine and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. Season to taste, then serve lentils with sauce, sausages piled on top.

Greek meat and potatoes: leftover lamb moussaka

I’ve written before about the challenges of roasting a decent sized leg of lamb, then finding yourself lumbered with more leftovers than a few school sandwiches can handle. This is another way to use up a decent quantity of leftover roast lamb.

Moussaka is traditionally made with eggplant, or sometimes a combination of eggplant and potatoes. In this version, I’ve omitted the eggplant in favour of potatoes alone. In New Zealand, eggplants have a relatively short season, and sadly for me, that season is now at an end. So spuds it is.

Don’t worry, it still tastes great, and makes a pretty balanced meal served with a green salad on the side.

LEFTOVER LAMB MOUSSAKA

6 decent sized potatoes, sliced into 5mm slices, and cooked until just cooked (about 5 minutes in boiling salted water. Your choice whether you peel them or not. I didn’t)

Lamb Sauce

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp dried mint

2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup red wine

2 x 440g tins crushed tomatoes

750g roast lamb, chopped finely

Salt/pepper to taste

White Sauce

65g butter

40g flour

600ml milk

1 bay leaf

1 tsp nutmeg

Salt/pepper to taste

  1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy based pan over a medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft.
  2. Add garlic, oregano, mint, bay leaves and cinnamon stick, and cook until fragrant.
  3. Pour over red wine and allow to bubble upp.
  4. Add tomatoes and lamb. Bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer, and cook until liquid has reduced and sauce is thick (about 40 minutes). Season to taste
  5. Heat oven to 200C
  6. To make the white sauce, bring the milk and bay leaf to just below boiling point.
  7. In a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes.
  8. Pour in hot milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps, then coontinue to whisk over medium heat until sauce is thick. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Grease a large baking dish with olive oil. Layer half of the potato slices on the bottom of the dish, then pour over half of the lamb sauce. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, then lamb, then top with the white sauce.
  10. Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until the top is golden.
  11. Remove from oven and serve.